I’ve always enjoyed the TV show “What Would You Do?” The show puts regular folks into an unusual situation, to find out how we would respond. Would we return the wallet we found in the parking lot? Would we tell the cashier she gave us too much change? Would we help an injured person at the scene of an accident? Basically, it expands on the moral dilemma we face each day: How do you act when no one is looking?
Bradley Nelson recently passed that test with flying colors. Nelson is 18, and just graduated from Dade County High School. His mom, Amanda Delay describes him as the quiet type, who never seeks recognition. I am honored to shine the spotlight on this modest hero.
On Wednesday August 8, Nelson was headed north on Highway 11 into Trenton, Georgia to pick up his mom from work. It was around 2:15 p.m., and traffic was normal. Up ahead, he saw a police officer wave him toward the side of the road. Major Tommy Bradford of the Dade County Sheriff’s Office was attempting to lay down a spike strip to stop a vehicle carrying one or more passengers accused of theft, heading north from Alabama.
Moments after Nelson went around the police car, he saw some commotion in his rear view mirror. A white pickup truck, traveling in excess of 90 miles per hour struck the officer, leaving him on the side of the road. The driver kept going, speeding past Nelson.
Nelson never asked himself, “What would you do?” Not even for a moment. He immediately ran toward Major Bradford, who was bleeding profusely. He had lost part of his left leg, just above the knee. He suffered several other injuries, but in those moments, the heavy bleeding was the primary concern. Nelson called for help, and soon Dade Co. Sgt. Buddy Waters arrived to the scene. Nelson knew a tourniquet would be needed, but he was not wearing a belt.
Waters removed his belt, and the two men did all they could do to stop the flow of bleeding until medics arrived to prepare Bradford to be airlifted to Erlanger in Chattanooga.
Quite simply, Nelson was the first responder, and his quick action, along with others, surely saved Bradford’s life.
This is a young man who had no training, no directions, and no rehearsal for what he encountered that day. How many of us would have looked in our rear-view mirror, and then sped away? “I don’t want to get involved,” many of us would have said. “What if I get blamed for something at the scene of a crime?” “I don’t want to be a witness, I will have to spend time in court.” The excuses go on and on. “Let me just call 911. I will have done my part, and then it is someone else’s problem.” Let’s be honest. That’s the way it usually happens.
Bradford, speaking to me from his hospital bed, says he is eternally grateful that Nelson never hesitated. Although the two men had crossed paths over the years at school and sporting events, neither recognized the other on the road that day.
Bradford said, “He kept talking to me, making I sure I was staying alert, so I wouldn’t lose consciousness. He was so calm, there was no panic in his voice. You have no idea what that means when you’re lying there helpless on the side of the road.”
Nelson’s mother said he had been wondering what to do with his life since he got out of high school. “Now he knows,” she said. While visiting Bradford at the hospital, the two men had a brief chat. Bradford complimented him for being brave and told him, “You should think about doing this.”
Nelson later told his mother, “Maybe this is for me.”
The Bradford family’s church, Piney Grove Baptist has arranged to pay for Nelson’s EMT training classes in Dade County, which will begin in September and end in January. Because he is only 18, he will not be allowed to do certain chores, but he can be a dispatcher, help draw blood, and assess injuries while he trains for further duties he can assume when he turns 21.
Bradford is recovering more quickly than anyone expected, and will take his trademark positive attitude into physical therapy so he can return to duty. “This is what has been given me, and I plan to make the best of it,” he said.
“I started as a dispatcher at 18,” he continued, “and Bradley Nelson might be like me and find out he loves helping people and keeping them safe.”
Nelson’s mom summed it beautifully. “There’s a lot of darkness in our world right now. Bradley is one of our brightest lights.”